Department of Music
Performance Studies Focus Group
Performance Studies Focus Group Pre-Conference
Call for Working Group Participants in the following areas: Music as Performance;
Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance; Performance and Ecology;
Mixed-Media Performance; Philosophical Intersections in Performance Studies; and
Jewish Performance Studies. Details about the full event and requested submissions
Performance Studies has been a debated and contested term which has been employed in
many different contexts and with many different meanings. Whether coming from
theatre, philosophy, ethnography, music, art history, or any one of a number of
varied disciplines and backgrounds, contemporary life has undergone a turn to
"performance." This pre-conference will engage a variety of scholars, practitioners,
and students to explore ideas that intersect within the term Performance Studies.
The pre-conference will begin with an opening roundtable entitled "Canadian
Intersections in Performance Studies," drawing on ATHE's location in Canada this year
and exploring the issues of Performance Studies and its relationship to theatre
studies in Canada. Confirmed speakers are: Penny Farfan, University of Calgary;
Christopher Innes, York University; Ric Knowles; University of Guelph; DD Kugler,
Simon Fraser University; and Jessica Wyman; Queen's University and Ontario College
of Art and Design. This opening panel will be followed by a session entitled,
"International Intersections: Reports from Afar," moderated by Nancy Reilly-McVittie
and PA Skantze, in which we will invite attending scholars from other geographical
regions to extend the discussion and report on the status of performance studies in
their institutions, cities, and communities. This panel will begin to interrogate
the ways in which performance studies has developed beyond its US disciplinary
Following the opening roundtable, we will break down into smaller "working groups,"
which will address a variety of individual topics in the field with the goal of each
creating a presentation to share with the other working groups at the end of the
pre-conference. Following the IFTR/FIRT model, these working groups are designed to
be ongoing discussion groups out of which might evolve future anthologies, conference
panels, and/or articles. Confirmed general working group topics and leaders are:
Music as Performance (Phil Auslander), Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and
Performance (Rhonda Blair), Performance and Ecology (Wendy Arons and Sarah Standing),
Mixed-Media Performance (Jessica Chalmers and Jennifer Parker-Starbuck),
Philosophical Intersections in Performance Studies (Josh Abrams and Gwendolyn Alker),
and Jewish Performance Studies (Henry Bial).
The concluding roundtable will be a response and discussion of Stephen Bottom's
provocative article "The Efficacy/Effeminacy Braid: Unpicking the Performance
Studies/Theatre Studies Dichotomy," (Theatre Topics 13.2, September 2003).
Confirmed speakers for this discussion are: Stephen Bottoms, Marvin Carlson, Tracy C.
Davis, Shannon Jackson, Anthony Kubiak, Martin Puchner, and Richard Schechner.
The Working Groups are as follows:
1. Music As Performance, Coordinator: Philip Auslander
Although Performance Studies takes the traditional performing arts as part of its
purview, the discipline has thus far ignored music almost completely. This working
group will seek to redress that neglect by investigating what a Performance Studies
perspective on musical performances might be and might yield. The working group will
take non-theatrical musical performances (that is, concerts and similar performances
rather than musical theatre or opera, not restricted to live forms) in any musical
genre as its main objects of inquiry. The initial meeting in Toronto will be devoted
to addressing some basic questions and forming a plan of action for the future. It is
hoped that participants will remain in touch after the conference and that we can
find ways of working together on an on-going basis. The questions we will discuss at
this first meeting may include:
- Why has Performance Studies taken so little interest in musical performances?
- What are the barriers to making connections between Performance Studies and music?
- What are the connections between musical performance and performance genres to
which Performance Studies has been more attentive (e.g., ritual, performance art)?
- What does Performance Studies have to offer the study of music?
- How is a Performance Studies perspective different from other perspectives (e.g.,
musicological or cultural studies perspectives)?
- What kinds of questions might a Performance Studies approach to music involve?
- With what other disciplines should Performance Studies seek to make common cause in
discussing musical performances?
In order to give us a point of departure, the session coordinator will assign some
readings in texts that relate directly to the questions at hand.
2. Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance, Coordinator: Rhonda Blair
Over the last two decades there have been significant developments in neuroscience
and cognitive science that are requiring us to redefine our sense of the
interrelationship among biology, culture, and consciousness; this in turn requires us
to reframe our understanding of performance. This group will consider both the
possible benefits and pitfalls in using the science to advance our work in
- The Toronto gathering will consider basic questions such as the following to
provide a framework:
- What do neuroscience and cognitive science have to offer performance studies?
- What are the dangers or limitations?
- How does taking into account that brain structure and function are materially
related to the nature of consciousness and experience affect our understanding of
the relationship among body, mind, and feeling in the participants in a performance
- What might this mean in regard to the intersections of artistic/cultural practice,
theory, and science?
In considering how brain structure and function are materially related to the nature
of consciousness and self, we can move toward a more concrete sense of how the
artist, spectator, and theorist work, and how this might affect our sense of what
theatre and performance are. The focus is the neurocognitive ground of memory,
feeling, imagery, representation, and self as a way of reengaging the process of
performance. I will assign some readings to provide a common starting point for our
discussion, and ask that participants provide a brief statement of interest, since
there are myriad ways of engaging this material.
3. Performance and Ecology, Co-Coordinators: Wendy Arons, email@example.com and Sarah
Scholars, artists, and activists working on issues/themes/questions/investigations
related to performance and ecology are invited to convene at the PS Preconference for
a new working group. This will be an ongoing research group focused on investigating
intersections between performance and ecology.
This group will explore the myriad ways in which drama/theatre/performance considers
and articulates ideas and practices of ecology. We are interested in the entire
range of intersections, for example: plays that address ecological issues directly,
eco-activism, theatre where 'nature' itself becomes a performative element, as well
as performances that instigate new ideologies and produce new meanings around
ecology. At the same time, we also want to scrutinize the inherent problems or
challenges in combining these disciplines.
Specific questions we propose to consider include:
- How do drama/theatre /performance and ecology intersect?
- What language do we use to describe various types
of: "eco-drama," "eco-theatre" and "eco-performance"?
- What constitutes "eco-performance" or "eco-theatre"?
- Does it have political, "real world" effects, and if so, how can those be measured?
- Are there differences between eco-activism and eco-performance?
- What might be gained/lost by theorizing eco-activism as performance?
- What can the "field" of performance studies contribute to the conversation on
- How is performance/theatre theorizing/furthering a conception of and a dialogue
Prospective participants (including theatre/performance studies scholars and
ethnographers; environmental activists; and theatre artists (playwrights, designers,
directors, actors), visual artists and performance artists creating
"eco-performance," "eco-theatre" or "eco-drama") should submit an example of an
instance of "eco-performance" or "eco-theatre" to the working group coordinators for
discussion to indicate their commitment and interest in joining the working group.
4. Mixed-Media Performance Working Group, Co-Coordinators: Jessica Chalmers,
firstname.lastname@example.org and Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, Zstarbuck@aol.com
SEEKING: Artists, scholars, activists, and others to work together to further the
exploration of performance media from both theoretical and practical perspectives.
By "performance media" we mean technologies used in theater or time-based art such as
(but not limited to): closed-circuit television, digital or analog video, animation
and other forms of image manipulation, interactive and non-interactive Internet use,
MUDS and on-line or off-line gaming, and/or audio and lighting manipulation.
WE INVITE YOU: to participate in an ongoing discussion/collaboration between artists
and scholars working in and outside of academia. At our first meeting in Toronto we
hope to examine such questions as:
- Which technologies are the most transformative of traditional narrative forms? For
example, has email changed the way we write or improvise dialogue?
- Do such technologies change the representation of the body and subjectivity? If
- What issues arise for artists in selecting media and media hybrids for performance?
- How do artistic choices about types of media to employ speak to, and affect,
- What can be the role of technologically driven performance in work with students?
- How do public and private funding trends affect the aesthetics of such
- What historical forms have anticipated current uses of technology in performance?
Beyond this (annual) meeting we envision possible outside collaborations in the form
of conference panels, artistic projects, and an on-line journal. If you are
interested in being a part of this exciting new working group, please submit a one
page statement of interest to both of the working group organizers at:
email@example.com and Zstarbuck@aol.com
5. Philosophic Intersections in Performance Studies, Co-Coordinators: Josh Abrams,
JAbrams@gc.cuny.edu and Gwendolyn Alker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Performance Studies has always been defined by the fluidity of its disciplinary
boundaries. While most stories of origin locate this field at the intersection of
theatre and anthropology, other disciplinary collusions suggest different beginnings
and subsequent models. One of the least discernable margins lies at the meeting
point between P.S. and the discipline of Philosophy; yet this is also one of the most
important borders in light of the "theory explosion" of the last 35 years. In this
working group we will attempt to trace and discuss some of the important sites of
generativity between the two areas, the disciplinary ramifications and the ongoing
possibilities for cross-pollination.
This initial meeting will set parameters for future discussions and collaborations.
We intend to examine the boundaries of a philosophic canon within Performance
Studies, exploring why certain philosophic discourses have been taken up by P.S.
while others have not. In order to create a common foundation for ongoing
discussion, the coordinators may assign readings before the first meeting of the
group. Initial questions may include:
- What are the initial locations and ongoing points of intersection between
Philosophy and Performance Studies?
- How does the relationship between Philosophy and Performance Studies overlay and
speak to the theory/practice dichotomy?
- What strands of philosophic thought have been most influential in Performance
Studies and why?
- What might Performance Studies have to offer to the field of Philosophy and the
methodologies prevalent within philosophic thought?
6. Jewish Performance Studies, Coordinator: Henry Bial, email@example.com
While the transmission of cultural information through theatrical performance is,
like ritual performance, mimetic and instructional, it lacks the authenticating power
of traditional religious or academic structures. Perhaps this is why, to paraphrase
Jonathan Boyarin, Jews are not marginal in either theatre or the academy, yet Jewish
theatre scholarship is rarely at home in either Theatre Studies or Jewish Studies.
This working group starts from the idea that if a critical formulation of
contemporary Jewish identity is possible, Performance Studies is where and how it
must happen. Like Jewishness itself, Performance Studies is a marginal,
cross-disciplinary project encompassing many disparate constituencies. Like
"performance studies people," Jews (especially in the Diaspora) frequently choose (or
are required) to adopt a secondary identity position in order to win acceptance from
Moreover, the overarching concept of Performance allows us to bring together two
apparently competing discourses of Jewish difference: 1) the Jew's body, a
genealogical or descent-based understanding of Jewish identity; and 2) Jewish
behavior (ritual or social), an elective or consent-based model.
Our first meeting will begin with the intentionally open-ended question: "What's the
deal with Jews and Theatre?" All participants will be asked in advance to circulate a
statement/position paper of 500-1000 words addressing this topic. These papers will
shape the agenda for a conversation that will begin in Toronto and (we hope) continue
via e-mail and subsequent conferences. Artists and scholars of all religions and
ethnicities are encouraged to participate.
Wednesday, July 28th
10am-12pm Opening Roundtable, "Canadian Intersections in Performance Studies"
12-1pm "International Intersections: Reports from Afar"
1-2pm Lunch break
2-5pm Working Group Sessions
5:30-7:30pm Reception at The Playwrights Guild of Canada. This is a 10-minute
walk from the hotel, at 54 Wolseley Street (one block north of Queen
St., one block east of Bathurst St.)
Performance options TBA
Thursday, July 29th
9-10:30 am Working Group Presentations
11-1pm Closing Roundtable:
Before July 10, pre-registration for ATHE members is $20. For non-members,
pre-registration is $30 until July 10. After that date, members can register for $30
and non-members for $50. Please mail registration information, along with a check
payable to CUNY Theatre Program for the appropriate amount to:
Jennifer Parker-Starbuck/Josh Abrams
427 8th Street, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Attn: PS-ATHE Preconference
If you have any questions please contact pre-conference organizers, Jennifer
Parker-Starbuck and Josh Abrams, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Address 1: ___________________________________________
Address 2: ___________________________________________
City, State, Zip: ___________________________________
Daytime Phone: ___________________________________________
Evening Phone: ___________________________________________
Preferred Working Group: (please rank top three choices from 1 to 3)
___Music As Performance
Coordinator: Philip Auslander
___Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance
Coordinator: Rhonda Blair
___Performance and Ecology
Coordinators: Wendy Arons and Sarah Standing
Coordinators: Jessica Chalmers and Jennifer Parker-Starbuck
___Philosophic Intersections in Performance Studies
Coordinators: Josh Abrams and Gwendolyn Alker
___Jewish Performance Studies
Coordinator: Henry Bial
Toronto, July 2004